Impacting Lives

Fiona Brabazon, PhD
Reprinted from PN April 2017

From brain interface machines to body composition, PVA's Research Foundation grants are helping to change lives and build a brighter future for veterans and everyone with SCI/D.

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Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) holds research as a cornerstone of its mission.

Through the PVA Research Foundation, cutting-edge research is funded in the areas of basic science, clinical applications, design and development of assistive devices and post-doctoral fellowships. The fellowships are especially significant, offering funding to bring new scientists into the field of spinal-cord injury (SCI) research and treatment. These efforts promote research that will benefit all veterans and others living with spinal-cord injuries and diseases. From bridging spinal-cord pathways to developing technology to improve hand function, the PVA Research Foundation grant projects impact lives. Funding for this innovative grant program comes from PVA chapters, members, family members and others who want to improve the lives of paralyzed veterans and their families.

This year, PVA has awarded five Research Foundation grants totaling almost $650,000 in three areas.

Basic Science

Eftekhar Eftekharpour, PhD  

University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Increasing Neuroprotection and Regeneration after Spinal Cord Injury

$150,000, two years

SCI remains a devastating condition with enormous emotional cost for the patients and their families. Irreversible loss of nerve cells after injury leads to permanent loss of function. Prevention of cell death and finding new ways to stimulate the repair system by neural stem cells are highly sought-after research strategies that can potentially lead to new therapies. There are currently no standard treatments for the patients.  This research is focused on regulation of free radicals that control neural cell death. The study is specifically interested in novel treatments that can be delivered to the injured spinal cord very quickly after injury. A novel protein delivery system developed at the University of Manitoba has shown promising results for cell death prevention. Interestingly, this treatment can also stimulate the spinal-cord stem cells. Using the funds from PVA, this research will investigate the potential therapeutic value of this particular approach. 

Shawn Frost, PhD

University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute

Electronic Aid to Bridge Damaged Spinal Cord Pathways

$150,000, two years

To bring the ultimate goal of developing a brain-machine-spinal-cord interface (BMSI) device for functional recovery after SCI to fruition, this project will establish the appropriate parameters for stimulating the spinal cord and increasing synaptic efficacy using brain activity after SCI. A BMSI can be beneficial in two ways: as a direct stimulator of motor neurons that mediate movement of the hindlimbs and as a tool to enhance the efficacy of intact descending or local pathways that can mediate hindlimb movement after injury via activity dependent stimulation (ADS). The central hypothesis of this study is that ADS may result in enhanced motor recovery by strengthening spared descending pathways from the brain to the spinal cord. ADS can enhance voluntary control of movement post-injury and augment concomitant physical/occupational therapy. The goal is to show how ADS can be used to both bypass an injury and promote recovery.

Cheryl Vines is PVA’s director of Research & Education for the Medical Services Department.


To read more about this, order the April 2017 PN, Click Here.
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